Using Facebook as a tool in higher Education

Using Facebook as a tool in Higher Education:
How to get students to
your programme
Graeme Mitchell
Liverpool John Moores University
Teaching and Leaning conference 13th June 2012
• In December 2011 a Facebook page was created for the
staff and students of the BSc (Hons) Environmental
Health programme. This presentation will discuss:
▫ the development of the Facebook page,
▫ the level and type of student interaction on the page,
▫ the benefits and challenges such a page brings in terms of
programme identity
A bit about Facebook
• Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg
• By March 2012
▫ 901 million monthly users
▫ 526 million daily users
▫ 398 million users active 6 out of 7 days
• Users spend an average of 20 minutes a day on
Facebook (Forbes 2012)
• Approximately 50% of the UK population are registered
with Facebook
• 95% of millennials (people born between 1981 and
2000) have at least 1 social networking account (Social Media
Experts 2012)
A bit about the programme
• BSc (Hons) Environmental Health – intake of about
20/25 students per cohort
• First step to becoming an Environmental Health
Practitioner (EHP)
• As such is accredited by the Chartered Institute of
Environmental Health (CIEH)
• Sphere of Environmental Health is extremely broad and
touches on all aspects of our lives
(Burke et al, 2002)
Facebook in Higher Education
• Certainly not the first or only programme within LJMU
that has a Facebook group (or indeed any other
• Indeed there has been previous research around
Facebook and Higher Education
• Research indicates the importance of Facebook to
students- Madge et al (2009) see it as part of the social
glue that helps students settle into university life and
keeps the student body together as a community.
• Further, Selwyn (2009) sees it as a way of maintaining
strong links between students (although not necessarily
for creating new points of contact)
• The use of Facebook by staff can impact on student
motivation and affect learning, as well as leading to a
more comfortable classroom climate but disclosure by
staff has to be consistent (Mazer et al 2007)
• However, Hewitt and Forte (2006) report that Facebook
does not have a positive or negative affect on how
students rate lecturers
• Importantly, the research seems to indicate the
students want to keep separate their personal lives and
academic lives (Ophus and Abbit, 2009 and Veletsianos
and Navarrete, 2012)
• Selwyn (2009, p.170) comments on the “sporadic and
often uncomfortable intrusion of university education
into students private, personal and interpersonal
• Similarly Madge et al (2009) find that Facebook was
only used informally for learning purposes by students,
mainly for group work and students were not keen on
being contacted by their lectures via Facebook.
• Yet despite this, academia still continues with its long
struggle to establish the roles that new innovations
(such as Facebook) should play in effective teaching
and learning (Roblyer et al 2010), regardless of the fact
that Facebook was not designed for instructional
purposes (Ophus and Abbitt, 2009)
• How do we engage students?
• How do we get students to achieve a sense of programme
▫ Students who develop a sense of programme identity less likely to
withdraw from the programme (Yorke and Longden, 2004; Christie
et al 2004)
▫ What influences students choice of university: programme; faculty;
the University or its location?
• How do we encourage ‘deep’ learning?
▫ Move away from ‘surface’ learning or assessment focused learning
• How do we get students to think more broadly?
▫ Issues connected and relevant to the curriculum but not necessarily
part of the core curriculum
• Didn’t want this to become another teaching tool
• Why use Facebook?
▫ Blackboard already exists but is used mainly as a repository of
information and is associated with teaching of the programme
▫ Facebook is an easily accessible and established social network,
with more functions than others (for example Twitter)
▫ Some students will not or cannot access Facebook
What did we do?
• Creation of a closed group on Facebook
▫ This means people have to be accepted before they can access
the Facebook page
• Emails then sent to staff and students on the
programme advising them of the existence of the group
and inviting them to join
• The Programme Leader is the administrator for the
▫ Accept new members
▫ Remove members
▫ Delete posts
• Members did need a Facebook account to join
• On joining members of the group did not become
‘friends’ with other members – unless they wished to
do so
• Members could limit the information available to be
viewed by other members by using the privacy settings
on their own Facebook account
• Ground rules – what ground rules?
• The programme team did not actively set out any
ground rules for the use of the Facebook page
• On reflection this was a positive move
▫ It treats students as adults/professionals
▫ It encourages shared ownership of the group
▫ To date none of the posts have caused any issues
Level of Engagement
• Student up take: 38 (61) = 62%
Level 4
Level 5
Level 6
12 (17) = 71%
18(29) = 62%
8 (15) = 53%
• Do all students contribute?
▫ No in some respects it’s the same as a classroom session; some
students contribute lots, others a little and some not at all.
Posting on the Facebook page (December 2011 to May 2012)
Staff posts
Student posts
food posts
• Initial concerns where that posts would be used for
‘chat’ but this was not the case
• There also appears to be very little about the structure
of the programme (for example “What room are we in
for tomorrow’s session?”)
• There were no posts discussing assessments
• What was posted covered the whole sphere of
environmental health. Examples include: wind power;
smallpox outbreaks; noise from peacocks; hoarders;
housing policy; food production; hose pipe bans; dog
fouling; climate change; minimum pricing for alcohol
• Posts also linked into TV programmes, video clips,
newspaper articles, quizzes and reports
• What was popular was ‘Fish of the day’ and ‘Guess the
• Some posts did not generate a response, some
generated quite lengthy discussions between group
Challenges and Benefits
• Setting up the actual Facebook group was a relatively
quick process.
• Starting and maintaining the page takes more time
• Initial posts on the page were staff led to generate
interest in the group but increasingly it has become
more student led
• What this means is that control moves from the staff to
the students
• However, because of this what we have seen is a move
to students posting information that they have found
themselves, as well as responding to posts
• There has also been evidence of communication across
cohorts, as students respond to posts.
Future Issues
• What about graduates?
▫ Do we remove them from the group?
▫ Do they want to stay in the group?
• What about opening up to new applicants?
▫ Must they have accepted an offer from LJMU?
▫ Do the just have to have applied to LJMU?
• Social networking is an incredibly powerful tool
• Presents an opportunity for programmes to (re)engage
students and for students to (re)engage with the
• It does initially require input from the programme team
but then becomes more self sustaining
• Before I take any questions I’d like to show you our
Facebook group
LJMU Environmental Health Course
• (I have of course checked that all members of the group are happy for me to
display the group page and indeed to undertake today’s presentation)
Contact details
Graeme Mitchell
Programme Leader
BSc (Hons) Environmental Health
Tel 0151 231 4461
Email: [email protected]
• Burke S, Gray I, Paterson K and Meyrick J (2002) Environmental Health 2012:
A key partner in delivering the public health agenda, Health Development
• Christie, H., Munro, M. and Fisher, T. (2004) ‘Leaving University early:
exploring the differences between continuing and non continuing students’,
Studies in Higher Education, 29(5), 617-636
• Forbes (2012) Facebook Facts, Stats and Trivia for Future Jeopardy
Contestants [online] Available at (last accessed 24th May 2012)
• Hewitt A and Forte A (2006), Crossing Boundaries: Identity Management and
Student/Faculty Relationships on the Facebook, [online] (last accessed
28th may 2012)
• Madge C, Meek J, Wellens J & Hooley T (2009): Facebook, social
integration and informal learning at university: ‘It is more for socialising
and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work’, Learning,
Media and Technology, 34:2, 141-155
• Mazer J, Murphy R and Simonds C, (2007): I'll See You On “Facebook”: The
Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student
Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate, Communication
Education, 56:1, 1-17
• Ophus J, and Abbitt J (2009) Exploring the potential perceptions of social
networking systems in university courses, Journal of Online Learning and
Teaching Vol. 5, No. 4, 639-648
• Roblyer M.D, McDaniel M ,Webb M, Herman J and Witty J (2010) Findings
on Facebook in higher education: A comparison of college faculty and
student uses and perceptions of social networking sites, Internet and
Higher Education 13 (June 2010) 134 – 140
• Selwyn N, (2009): Faceworking: exploring students' education‐related use
of Facebook , Learning, Media and Technology, 34:2, 157-174
• Social Marketing Experts (2012) UK Social Media Facts 2011 [online]
Available at (last
accessed 24th May 2012)
• Veletsianos G, and Navarrete C, (2012), Online Social Networks as
Formal Learning Environments: Learner Experiences and Activities,
The international review of research in open and distance learning
Vol 13 No1 (2012) p144-166
• Yorke, M. and Longden, B. (2004) Retention and Student Success in
Higher Education, Open University

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